Comprehensive Exam—American Government and Politics August 2011 section 1: Methodology Section



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Comprehensive Exam—American Government and Politics

August 2011

SECTION 1: Methodology Section (Answer 1 of the following.)

1. The attitudinal model of Supreme Court decision-making has been subject to increasing criticisms over time. Are those criticisms valid? In answering this question, you should explain the attitudinal model, the nature of the criticisms of that model, and describe at least one competing model of Supreme Court decision-making. Finally, your essay should identify what you consider the best model and explain why you think it is best.

2. Qualitative and quantitative approaches to research are often portrayed as contrasting methods of research. Write an essay in which you discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both of these research strategies. Select a research subject that has been studied both quantitatively and qualitatively. Evaluate the contributions of both approaches. To what extent has qualitative research on the subject improved the quantitative investigations and vice versa.

SECTION 2: Issues in American Government and Politics (Answer 2 of the following.)

1. In the literature, there has been a long-running dispute, going back at least to David Truman about whether interest groups promote or undermine democracy. What is the relationship between interests groups and democracy? In answering this question, you should assess the nature of this dispute, discuss the more recent contributions to it in the political science literature, and, finally, come to some conclusion about which side has the more valid arguments and stronger evidence.

2. Former House Speaker and current presidential candidate Newt Gingrich liked to refer to the House of Representatives as the “people’s branch,” meaning the one most directly representative of the people. Assuming Gingrich is right, it still raises the question of how exactly it is representative of the people. In answering this question, you should discuss the recent literature on congressional behavior, various theories of representation, and how those theories apply or do not apply to congressional behavior to come to some definitive answer to the question.

3. Congress is currently grappling with legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling. From the perspective of the political science literature on Congress, why is the institution having more difficulty in dealing with this issue today than in the past? What factors are most important in shaping congressional decision making on major policy issues? What aspects of the contemporary Congress are inadequately addressed in the literature and would benefit most from further research?



4. Ours is a system of separated powers or, as Richard Neustadt put it, a system of separate institutions sharing power. Focusing on one set of institutional relationships (President-Congress, Congress-Courts, Courts and federalism, etc ) discuss the classic issues that frame that relationship, and what contemporary research tells us about that relationship today that either confirms or contradicts traditional thinking.


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